Marley Munroe announces herself as a force to be reckoned with on her debut single, the bittersweet, pop-inflected soul tune Boomerang an instant classic that finds Munroe wringing deep emotion from lyrics she penned about a love that keeps winging its way back. Munroe premiered an acoustic version of “Boomerang” at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall in December and everyone in the room was rapt.… When this girl steps onstage and unleashes tales of heartbreak with a rich, sultry belt, you can’t take your eyes off of her.
Her colossal vocal talent and outsized charisma, along with her natural songwriting ability have led Munroe to a production deal with the team of Sam Watters and Louis Biancaniello (Kelly Clarkson, Natasha Bedingfield) and a recording contract with Epic Records, which will release Munroe’s as-yet-untitled debut album this year. Munroe has been in the studio co-writing songs with Watters and Biancaniello (who are also part of The Runaways) that showcase her ability to transition easily between soul and pop without sacrificing an ounce of authenticity. She may sound like the second coming of Gladys Knight, but Munroe refuses to be pigeonholed as a soul singer.
I want to take over the world! she says with a high-wattage smile and deep, rumbling laugh when asked why her repertoire includes such pop fare as “Kill Romeo”,”Someone To Save You,” and “Cracks In The Sidewalk” among soulful gems like the ’60s girl group-ish “Broken Windows” and the Memphis R&B-style “Reckless.” My sound marries the different parts of who I am. I love pop artists like Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, and P!nk, but I also listen to Billie Holiday and Donny Hathaway every day. My music brings those loves together. I don’t want to be straight-up any one thing because I have so many different influences. I also love Coldplay and U2. I love big, epic, stadium songs. But I don’t know how to do pop without the soul.
Munroe was born and raised in Farmington, New Mexico, a town of 45,000 that is surrounded by several Indian reservations. Her mother, who is a hairdresser, and her father, who works as a fueler for a helicopter company, were born and raised there, too. As a kid, Munroe remembers her parents listening to soul artists like Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, and Kool and the Gang, and gospel artists like Andraé Crouch. Her mother used to follow Munroe around with a tape recorder when she realized her daughter could sing. She has all these tapes of me at a year old singing and reciting Mother Goose nursery rhymes; I still have the book, says Munroe, who also remembers family friends giving her quarters to sing for them. Munroe’s modest upbringing meant she performed at churches, funerals, fairs, and weddings all of those small-town things I’m grateful for because they gave me my start, she says. Munroe’s mother also carted young Marley around to sing the National Anthem at sporting events, including a major-league baseball game in Texas. Munroe also traveled back and forth to Nashville after signing with a Christian record label at age 12. As a teenager, she toured the U.S. performing in arenas with DC Talk’s Toby Mac. It all played a part in me finding out who I was,” Munroe says of her time in that world. “You’re young and you’re discovering new things about yourself and what makes you tick.”
The entire time Munroe was living in the American Southwest, New York City beckoned, capturing her imagination with its deep cultural and musical history. “I’ve never had a connection with any other city,” she says “I’ve never felt like I was home even at home. It was never there in Farmington. It was always New York. I’ve said it since I was a little girl.” At 21, after visiting many times over the years, Munroe moved to NYC, where she honed her craft as a lyricist and melody writer for several years. Eventually her Los Angeles-based manager encouraged her to come out to California, which she did. “We hit the ground running and have not looked back,” she says.
As a songwriter, Munroe has worked with some of the music industry’s most prolific writers, including Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, The Avila Brothers, Robert “Storm” Daniels, Mateo Laboriel, The Monsters, Soulshock, J. Bynum, Chris Braide, Trevor Lawrence, and her current team of Watters and Biancaniello.
“You know when something really fits,” she says of the pair. “The energy flowed automatically with Sam and Louis. It was exactly what it should be and what I knew it could be. Louis tracks are just phenomenal. The musicality, everything. And Sam and I have always been on the same page with the melodies and lyrics. They’ve been able to pull a lot out of me. In the beginning I never wanted to write anything personal because I’m so private, but along the way I realized that it’s normal to have feelings and emotions and sometimes they come out. So there’s been a couple of moments where I was like, “Ooh, I think I touched on something, damn!” But I’ve never been able to be fake me, my music, or anything. There’s a part of me in every song, whether it’s sung from a place of strength or I’m sounding totally heartbroken. I cry, too, you know? “Boomerang” came to me when I was sitting in a café near the studio. I had been listening non-stop to Gladys Knight & The Pips, “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” and I wanted to do something in that vein. The song is about how much it hurts to be the target of the person you think you can’t live without. “Broken Windows” is about missing out on life because you’ve been hurt and have enclosed yourself in a bubble, then you snap out of it, the window shatters, you breathe the air again, and you realize it’s going to be okay. I didn’t go in to the writing process wanting to lay my heart on the table, but it happened, in more ways than one.”
For Munroe, the most important thing is doing what she loves. “I was born to entertain. It doesn’t have to be a huge arena stage. It can be in front of two people in the studio. When I open my mouth to sing, I know I was born to do it. That feeling gets me out of bed every morning. It makes me feel alive like nothing else.”